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Suffolk fishermen call for compensation after seabed cables serving Greater Gabbard wind farm leaves key area off-limits

Suffolk fishermen say their livelihoods have been threatened by offshore wind farms after cables laid on the seabed left a key area off-limits for more than year.

Small fishing boats in Aldeburgh are said to unable to access important Dover sole stocks about two miles off the coast because of the disruption caused to the seabed.

The cables were laid to transfer power generated by the Greater Gabbard wind farm to an onshore connection with the National Grid near Sizewell.

Once the work was completed, the fishermen say developers had agreed to return the seabed to its original condition, but this, they claim, has failed to happen, posing hazards for vessels and nets.

With small-scale fishing already under pressure, the fishermen say further disruption could mean the end of their industry and are calling for developer compensation.

One, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We can barely exist as it is and little things like this are going to push us over the edge.

“When these wind companies are making so much money the amount that we are talking about is peanuts and yet they don’t seem to want to give us anything.

“We’ve been here for generations and yet with this they seem to be pushing us out.”

Jerry Percy, a spokesman for the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association, said the disruption had gone on for 14 months and was a major concern for the inshore fishermen whose fishing grounds have already been depleted.

“There are serious concerns about the impact that development of these sites has on fish stocks and fishermen,” he added.

“These things can take forever to rectify. There seems to be no great urgency in ensuring the fishermen receive compensation but we are currently in negotiations with the developers and hope to have a positive outcome.”

Greenpeace has also backed the fishermen, who it says have received little support from the government compared with the larger, less sustainable end of the industry.

Oceans campaigner Nina Schrank said: “These fishermen are already very marginalised and situations like these don’t help.

“It’s an important fishery and it should be returned, as promised, or compensation paid.”

A spokesman for Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Limited (GGOWL) said the company held regular meetings with the fishing industry representatives to address concerns.

“As a responsible operator GGOWL takes our obligations to the community in which we work seriously,” the spokesman added.

The fishermen have also been critical of government agencies for failing to ensure that the seabed was returned to its original condition.

A spokesman for the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) said original permission for the wind farm was given before the MMO was created but it had regulated further works related to the development, such as the cabling.

“We’re aware of the concerns raised by the fishermen about the cable and have been in touch with the developers about these,” the spokesman added.

“A working group has been established, which includes representatives of the fishing industry and a fisheries liaison officer employed by the developer in order to keep the industry informed of all on-going works relating to the cable protection.”